The Dell Dimension 3000 is based on Intel's 865G chipset, which offers plenty of benefits, such as support for dual-channel, 400MHz DDR memory and Intel's Extreme Graphics 2 technology. But we were miffed to see that the motherboard does not provide an AGP slot for graphics card upgrades. (Although Extreme Graphics 2 is an improvement over Intel's previous integrated graphics chips, it still has limitations.) The same is true with the floppy-drive slot: unless you have Dell install one at the time of purchase, the slot comes blocked and is therefore useless to you. And there's no option for adding a handy media-card reader--a choice that all of eMachines' current models offer.
As we expected, the overall performance of our test system was unimpressive, but it also fell surprisingly short of the showing by the AMD Athlon-based eMachines T3256. And don't try to run any serious games on the Dimension 3000: its 13.5 frames-per-second (fps) frame rate on our Unreal test demonstrated a major liability in this department, while the eMachines scored closer to 30fps on the same test. Neither system is a good bet for playing the latest game titles, but the T3256's score indicates that it has a superior graphics subsystem in the Nvidia GeForce4 MX to that of the Dimension 3000's Intel Extreme Graphics 2.
The Dimension 3000's main attraction is the fact that it's highly configurable via Dell's Web site, while retail systems such as the eMachines T3256 ship as is. Our Dimension 3000 test system came with a 2.66GHz Celeron processor, 512MB of RAM, and DVD-ROM and CD-RW drives. You can, of course, configure it with a faster processor, including Pentium 4 chips, more memory, and higher-end optical drives. You'd do well to upgrade the tiny 40GB hard drive found on our test system, which provides a quarter of the capacity of the T3256's drive. For businesses looking for an inexpensive, no-frills PC, Dell's OptiPlex SX280 offers many of the same options in a much more compact case.
The Dimension 3000's design is tried-and-true, even if it's not particularly attractive--the trademark matte-black box with battleship-gray accents doesn't quite match the black-and-silver peripherals that come with it. A tool-free side panel slides open easily to reveal a roomy interior with two free PCI slots. Rear ports include four USB 2.0 connectors, while another USB 2.0 port and a headphone port adorn the front. The included Internet keyboard features the hardware volume wheel and audio buttons we've lauded in the past. Dual A215 stereo speakers provide basic sound, but Dell offers a number of options here, all the way up to a 5.1 surround-sound system for use with the optional SoundBlaster Live audio card (our test system relied on integrated sound, which provides 5.1 sound).
Dell offers a wide assortment of warranties. We suggest spending the $17 to upgrade from the weak, 90-day standard coverage to a one-year onsite warranty. (The $636 price of our test system included this upgrade.) Although competitor eMachines now offers two simple warranty upgrades, it just can't compete with Dell's many options, strong online support, and 24/7 toll-free phone support. And while our Windows XP Home system came with Dell JukeBox and Picture Studio (for playing music and fixing photos, respectively), along with the WordPerfect Office 12.0 suite, you can opt for several different flavors of more robust Microsoft productivity software.
In the end, the Dimension 3000's configuration options aren't enough to top the eMachines T3256' offerings. At roughly $600, the eMachines provides a better optical drive tandem, a larger hard drive, a graphics-upgrade path, and better performance--even if you do have to spend a little extra for a monitor. You simply get more for less with eMachines.
|BAPCo SysMark 2004 rating||SysMark 2004 Internet-content-creation rating||SysMark 2004 office-productivity rating|
To measure application performance, CNET Labs uses BAPCo's SysMark 2004, an industry-standard benchmark. Using off-the-shelf applications, SysMark measures a desktop's performance using office-productivity applications (such as Microsoft Office and McAfee VirusScan) and Internet-content-creation applications (such as Adobe Photoshop and Macromedia Dreamweaver).